When using resource roads, close the "loop" on radio communications

Safety Alert Type: 
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
Company Name: 
New Zealand Forest Owners Association
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

The following information is from a member company of the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (NZFOA). The information provided has relevance to forestry operations in British Columbia as well. Link to the NZFOA alerts web page: https://nzfoa-iris.com/SafetyAlerts.aspx

Ever watch a movie or seen a paramedic delivering shocks from an AED to a patient? There is a critical step before a patient is shocked. The paramedic must say, “all clear” the other paramedics must then respond “I’m clear”. The paramedic then signals “everyone is clear” when he has observed and heard each person respond.

As in any job, this communication may become repetitive. This may cause individuals to make assumptions believing everyone is clear without following the “check back” process and confirming everyone is clear. The communication breaks down and someone is inadvertently shocked when they are not clear.

When we travel forest roads and make calls to let others know our position we use “closed loop communication”.
Once I have made my call I listen for response. If I get a response from another vehicle coming towards me I then respond, back with instruction where we will meet or how to pass safely.
Although there is a written procedure for how this must be communicated, it happens very naturally and becomes more of a conversation then a step by step instruction. We then rely on driving to conditions and proper speed to ensure safe travel if this procedure fails. We need to ensure we are using the “check back” process.

Yarding work, machine assisted falling, road closed authorization are tasks that rely on radio communication for each other’s safety. Get this wrong and someone can be seriously hurt. A critical part of this communication is confirming the message has been heard and understood.

Incidents have been reported of close calls when this check back loop has not been followed. A radio turned down and instruction not heard, a worker hears a click on the radio and thinks it is confirmation, visual confirmation is thought to be received from operator.

In industry in New Zealand there have been a number of fatalities also related to not following this process and communication being assumed or not confirmed.

Learnings and Suggestions: 
  • Use a check back process to ensure instructions have been understood
  • DO NOT make assumptions that communication has been received
  • This may seem repetitive but do not shortcut the communication by using other less effective methods like radio clicks or poor visual eye contact.


For more information on this submitted alert: 

PDF copy of this alert from New Zealand Forest Owners Association: https://nzfoa-iris.com/SafetyAlerts/ShowSafetyPDF.aspx?id=190

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